The man with the hardest job in Taranaki - building the controversial stainless-steel facade for the Len Lye Centre - has lifted the lid on how the work will be done.
Steve Scott is general manager of Rivet, a steel fabricating company based in New Plymouth that won the tender to fabricate the 14-metre-high stainless-steel panels which will encase the city's new art gallery.
Opponents and critics of the Len Lye Centre or its plans have warned the spectacular stainless-steel facade will become a tea-stained disaster and the costings for it are too light.
But Mr Scott maintains he has the equipment and the steel to produce dramatic results.
Mr Scott confessed he was "not particularly arty" but said this was the dream job.
"I get sick of making benches and handrails.
"To be able to do a job with that level of finish required is what we always want to do, but no-one wants to pay for it."
The level of finish he is talking about is the highest available on stainless-steel sheet, manufactured by just one mill in the world.
"It's certainly going to be shiny."
The $2.3 million job will be the most striking part of the new centre alongside the Govett Brewster Art Gallery in King St.
Clelands Construction won the contract with a price of $12,880,739, which included upgrade work to the art gallery.
Mr Scott said the more shine, the less maintenance because the shinier the sheet, the less likely dirt and grime would stick to it.
The mirror-like surface has raised concerns about glare but the faces done were the south and east sides so there was no direct sun in the hottest part of the day, Mr Scott said.
And once the facade was up, there was no going back.
"You can't spray something on to dull it down, what you end up with is what you get."
The building's proximity to the ocean and ironsand called for marine grade steel, the same used in boat building.
"In terms of material grade and finish, it's the highest spec you can get."
Mr Scott said the project was technically challenging and like nothing Rivet had ever done before.
"There's 500 sheets of steel in it.
"Most of our jobs have between half a sheet and a sheet.
"Our average job may weigh 40 to 50 kilos, this has got 32 tonnes of steel in it.
"My old man was a sheetmetal worker - he hasn't seen anything like it in 73 years.
"There's certainly nothing in New Zealand like it."
Adding to the challenge was the pressure and expectation from the community, he said.
"The whole project's going to be measured on this facade, yet it's only less than 20 per cent of the bill cost."
But Mr Scott said he would not have bid for the project if he did not think he could deliver.
"You've just got to back yourself and back your guys.
"We've got sheetmetal tradesmen that are the best in the province."
He said his staff were waiting with anticipation to work on the project.
"In stainless-steel you usually weld sink benches or weld dairy pipes for Fonterra; it's fairly non-glamorous typically.
"So for them to get involved with something as high-end as this, it's quite unique."
Mr Scott said three companies bid for the job initially, including one firm from Auckland, and he was pleased the work had stayed in Taranaki where it belonged.
"If we get this right, it's good for the province, it's good for my guys; hopefully we'll make a buck."
And that was what it came down to. Politics aside, it was a commercial decision to get behind a local project.
"As a ratepayer, I'm not a huge fan of the gallery but if the council's made a decision, then local businesses should get behind it, otherwise the money goes to out-of-town companies, and that's ridiculous," Mr Scott said.
Sometimes a leap of faith was necessary, he said.
"Nobody wanted a wind wand and nobody wanted the walkway.
"Ten years on we're still extending the walkway because it gets used that much."
The material for the facade will arrive in January and Mr Scott is starting to gear up the workshop in preparation.
This has included the purchase of a $500,000 laser cutting machine.
The facade will be built in 17 panels, each 14m high and joined together.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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